Paying tribute to those who defend us all

A UAE soldier mans a machine gun in a Chinook helicopter over Yemen. Noah Browning / Reuters
A UAE soldier mans a machine gun in a Chinook helicopter over Yemen. Noah Browning / Reuters

Eid Al Adha is a time when family and friends get together to pray, eat, exchange greetings and gifts, and cherish the blessed lives that we lead. Yet this Eid, there have been empty spaces at many family gatherings; places that ought to be occupied by loved ones who are absent in the service of their country.

Many members of the Armed Forces are spending their first Eid away from their loved ones. They have missed the company of their families and they, in turn, have been missed. But those in Yemen or elsewhere in the line of duty should be sustained by the knowledge that they are answering a higher calling. This, too, should be utmost in the minds of the families they have left behind, and the entire community that benefits from their selflessness.

Some of those families are mourning – including the relatives of Lt Rashid Ahmed Abdullah Al Habsi, who lost his life while serving in the Arab coalition’s Operation Restoring Hope in Yemen, and whose cousin, First Corporal Fahim Al Habsi, also died in Yemen in August last year. The depth of those families’ pain is impossible to know or to describe; for each it will be different. But for all of them, their loss is mitigated by the knowledge that those who have died were defending this country and upholding our shared values. The dead have sacrificed their lives for our future.

November 30 will be the second annual Commemoration Day, previously known as Martyrs’ Day, declared in memory of all those who have died protecting this nation, dating back to the first martyr, policeman Salem Suhail bin Khamis, who was shot by Iranian forces when he refused to lower the flag of Ras Al Khaimah on Greater Tunb island. While such a formal day of remembrance is appropriate and necessary, we should also be mindful of the men and women on active duty and take pause throughout the year to express our gratitude to all those – in the military, in civil defence and other essential services – who put their lives on the line, and sometimes pay the ultimate price, for our security.

This nation is proud of its sons and daughters who stand ready to defend it, and on occasions of great joy and widespread celebration such as Eid, it is appropriate that we remember the sacrifices they make to do so.

Published: September 13, 2016 04:00 AM